Diocesan News

Lincoln parish dedicates new organ

Celebration dedicated to longtime organist, congregation donates to Society of St. Vincent de Paul

By S.L. Hansen

LINCOLN (SNR) - In a parish known for its generosity to missions, schools and the poor, recent donations have enabled the congregation to enhance their worship of God by purchasing the church’s long-awaited pipe organ.

When St. Joseph Church in Lincoln was built in 2000, space was set aside for a pipe organ, an expense that was not to be undertaken at the time. Now, thanks to an anonymous donor and other parishioners, the organ has been installed. It was dedicated last Sunday, Feb. 16.

Msgr. Liam Barr, pastor of the parish of more than 1,400 families, said 90% of the cost of the organ was covered by a solitary anonymous donation. A letter drive to a select group of parish contributors collected the remainder. Indeed, people responded so generously, there were enough extra funds to purchase new stations of the cross for the church, which were installed last March.

On Sunday, approximately 300 parishioners gathered in the church at 3 p.m. for the blessing of the stations and the organ, which was designed, built and installed by Bedient Pipe Organ Company in Lincoln.

The organ blessing was dedicated to parish charter member and longtime organist Betty Porn, much to her surprise and delight.

“That was a very moving part of the whole event,” Msgr. Barr said. “She is a beautiful person.”

Attendees were treated to glorious music: Dr. Christopher Marks of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln played the new organ, the parish choirs sang, and a brass ensemble performed.

The new organ with its 2,000 pipes replaces a smaller, electronic organ that was nearing the end of its usefulness. The pipes were installed in a small, screened-off area behind the altar.

Each of the 10,000-plus pieces of the organ was hoisted up through a hole in the floor measuring 40 inches by 32 inches – about the same square footage as a standard card table. The smallest piece was about the size of a pencil. The largest was 18 feet long and a few feet in diameter – basically equivalent to a tree trunk.

Then, the organ was hand-assembled, a process that took about two weeks.

Since the installation, the parish has experienced a new level of music.

“It’s all about the liturgy,” Msgr. Barr explained. “This is all to help us to pray better and to help us worship the Lord better.”

During the dedication, a speaker from the St. Vincent DePaul Society spoke about how worship leads to action, and a free-will collection was taken up for that apostolate’s efforts on behalf of the poor.

Msgr. Barr said the collection was “very successful,” a sign of the parish’s ongoing commitment to helping those who are less fortunate. 

He noted that between supporting a parish in Haiti, which includes sending a team of dentists once a year to the area, contributing to two schools in Lincoln, and ongoing donations to Saint Vincent de Paul Society, Saint Joseph Parish gives between $175,000 and $200,000 to the less fortunate each year.

“It’s a huge commitment of this parish, and it always has been,” Msgr. Barr said. “I’ve always been deeply moved by that.”

He is confident that the new organ will inspire deeper worship and even more generosity throughout the parish.

“The better we worship, the better we act, and the better our service to the poor,” Msgr. Barr declared.

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